The Jeep Geek

The Jeep Geek's Blog
Apr 2011

Computers Everywhere

The Jeep Geek was driving his daughters to school today (and then on to work). The conversation centered on the many computers in cars today. You might want to know why this obtuse conversation occurred...well The Jeep Geek just paid $1600 to replace a computer in his daughter’s Volvo (as well as a few additional bits of maintenance). Sigh. The computer that was replaced was the one that controls the steering wheel. When this particular computer dies, then the turn signals don’t work.

The Jeep Geek observed that when the computers work, every thing is wonderful. We all love all the gadgets, capabilities, luxuries that the many computers in a car provide. But the law of increasing numbers works against the reliability of simple solutions to problems. For example, if a company has 30 computers in their organization, and the average failure rate is one in 10 years, then this company will see 3 failures per year. Guess what...many modern cars have over 30 computer modules in them. Three failures per year would be unacceptable to any car buyer. The auto industry average is between 1 and 1 1/2 failures per year overall. Chrysler’s scores in this area are improving against the is interesting to note that the Japanese auto companies don’t stack at the top for reliability any more... US companies have overtaken them.

But The Jeep Geek digresses. If one can expect regular repair bills to replace computer modules how does one afford such a situation? Well, two things here. First, the computer modules in the auto are far more reliable than the ones we buy for our homes and businesses...most of the failures that are discussed above are not computer module failures...many are little things that don’t cost much money...some are expensive computer modules.

The Jeep Geek sells many Jeeps with the optional Lifetime extended warranties to those customers who typically keep their vehicles longer than 3 years. The cost of these warranties are typically about the price of a computer module failure...or other major component failure and is a good way to prepare for the unexpected. A recurring theme in The Jeep Geek’s life...he is, after all, married to a reliability engineer.

Failures are often preventable by good design, careful manufacturing and regular maintenance...but until GOD makes the vehicle there will be failures. Jeeps are particularly reliable these days thanks to the 6 sigma quality programs that Chrysler has put into place, but everyone should be prepared to deal with the cost of a failure of their vehicle...either by making sure that a good warranty is in place, or by saving up for repairs.

Hopefully you will experience problem free driving that most of us Jeep owners experience. But mechanical things do break and The Jeep Geek hopes you are prepared.

Thinking Outside the Box

The Jeep Geek is a traditionalist. He enjoys the simple esthetic of function over form. The boxy shapes of the Jeeps occur in this vein. Having established this, The Jeep Geek does appreciate fine lines in a vehicle when he sees them.

Recently Jeep refreshed the 2011 Jeep Compass. The designers gave it the front and hood look of the new Grand Cherokee. What a sweet little Jeep this unit is. Beefy 2.4L VVT engine generates 172HP (more than the 4L inline 6 of previous generations of the Wrangler). Yet the aero dynamics of this unit, combined with this engine allow for close to 30 MPG. This mileage is almost unheard of in a true 4 wheel drive package.

The Compass is front wheel drive in 2wd mode. It has all the electronic stability control, electronic roll-over mitigation, and other safety features of bigger Jeep models. The roll cage is a little something that we got to keep in the divorce settlement from Mercedes...a high strength, low weight metal that is only used in the highest end sports sedans. The Jeep Geek wouldn’t think twice about putting one of his daughters in this safe little unit.

Now, if you are thinking that this is a cheap your father’s, it just isn’t true. While the price is pretty low for a true 4 wheel drive vehicle, there is nothing cheap about this vehicle. For a price in the low $20Ks you get the beefy 2.4L engine, a continously variable transmission(CVT) (a word on this in a minute), power windows and door locks, nice sound system, iPod connection, 115VAC outlet, and great comfort. Lease payments on this unit are in the mid to upper $200 per month, making this a great choice for those who need to keep the budget under control.

Now the transmission is what The Jeep Geek really likes about this Jeep. The CVT utilizes two pulleys and a steel belt between them to change the drive ratio. A typical transmission has between 3 and 6 speeds (read gear ratios). This unit has an infinite number of when you are up in the mountains, you are never “between gears”...that awful place where the engine is either racing in too low a gear, or lugging in too high a gear. Even Goldilocks would say the drive ratio is just right.

When driving down the road, the transmission controller biases for fuel economy, when the driver stomps on the accelerator the controller changes to performance within 30 milliseconds...changing the drive ratio to give you acceleration that will surprise you for a Jeep.

Additionally, there is no jerking of the vehicle when moving from a stop like almost every other vehicle on the planet. With a traditional automatic transmission, the vehicle jerks a bit as it shifts gears, not this one...smooth acceleration regardless of the speed.

If luxury is your thing, the Compass Limited is available with leather, Nav radio, extra chrome and all those power goodies.

Now the million dollar question...Can you take this thing Off-road? New for this year is the off-road package that makes the Compass “Trail Rated”. This includes some skid plating, tow hooks, an extra inch of ground clearance and a two speed transfer case. Might not conquer the Rubicon Trail, but will perform well enough to get you to some nice old mining camps around here, and will handle our winter snows just fine.

This little Jeep is The Jeep Geek’s best choice for College Students or young marrieds that want something to drive daily and get up to ski country in the winter.